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GUEST BLOG: X-ing Out the J-Curve

Three Big Questions About the Global Burden of Disease Project’s Findings on Alcohol

a mugshot of carson benowitz-fredericksby Carson Benowitz-Fredericks, MSPH
Research Manager, Alcohol Justice

Last month, The Lancet published a powerful study online ahead of print examining the use and harms of alcohol on a global scale. The study, part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-sponsored Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project, casts a startling spotlight on the ways alcohol impacts each a map of alcohol use worldwidecountry differently, yet hits everyone across the globe. The study was heavily covered primarily for how it debunks Big Alcohol’s pet dissemblance surrounding “healthy alcohol”. As significant as that finding is, however, the significance of the GBD findings goes far beyond that.

Q: What is special about the Global Burden of Disease’s report on alcohol?

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Emodka: The Cartoon Booze That Industry Regulators Can't Say No To

"Mom, Dad! Can I get the funny vodka?"

showing little bottles of emodka the funny vodka that kids will loveThis is a phrase no parent is ready to hear from their six-year-old. Yet Emodka seems made to elicit exactly that query. Emodka is an imported French vodka sold in rubber-ducky-colored bottles with the goofy text message icons printed on them. In light of this gross violation of ethical alcohol marketing, the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project (WAPP) mobilized the residents of the state to end importing of the product into Wisconsin. It was a heartening effort in the face of Big Alcohol’s persistent and dangerous lack of accountability for its advertising practices. Yet WAPP, like all public health and safety advocates, need to see real punitive action taken against those who profit from this reckless product, or else Emodka will simply be replaced with another in the endless line of youth-oriented booze bottles.

Researchers have definitively shown the link between youth exposure to alcohol marketing and harmful drinking. Connecting harmful products to cartoons has been a primary method of marketing to youth for almost a century—the tobacco industry was famously called to task for using Joe Camel to make cigarettes appeal to kids, and the sugar industry has long relied on mascots to push harmful breakfast foods on them. However, Emodka, following close on the heels of The Emoji Movie, is in a class of its own in terms of contempt for U.S. norms. So great is this level of contempt that, in the face of massive pressure from Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project and their allies, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), the alcohol industry's spirits association, took the rare step of eventually and belatedly censuring the distributor.

Yet even this action was too little and too late, as could be predicted from Big Alcohol’s insistence on self-regulation. There is no federal or state oversight of alcohol marketing practices. All enforcement comes from within the industry itself, and that is often ineffectual. In a report published under its previous name The Marin Institute, Alcohol Justice showed that DISCUS dismissed over half of all complaints over alcohol advertising practice. Frequently, the complaint was deemed addressed with a mere promise to comply in the future. That pattern repeated itself with Stoller and Emodka, where despite violations so blatant that the industry could not help but act, the only punishment was to tell Stoller not import more once the existing stocks had sold out.

“Without consequences from the distilled spirits industry or Federal Trade Commission, the manufacturer can profitably entice children with Emodka for years while watchdogs struggle to catch up,” said Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director/CEO of Alcohol Justice. “Self-regulation is a joke.”

As of this writing, brick-and-mortar retailers in over 16 states, as well as online retailers, still list Emodka for sale. It is time for public health and safety advocates to take up the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project’s banner, get this product off the shelves, and tell state and federal regulators that we need government oversight of the alcohol industry now.

TAKE ACTION to get Emodka off our shelves and end industry self-regulation once and for all.

READ MORE about the herd of Trojan horses in Big Alcohol's social responsibility campaigns.

READ MORE about Alcopops, alcohol products carefully formulated to draw in kids. 


GUEST BLOG: CA Bills Provide Hope to Stem Overdose Tide

a portrait of Ramon Castellblanch, PhDby Ramon Castellblanch, PhD
Quality Healthcare Concepts, Inc.

Two desperately-needed bills that would be steps in the direction of reducing California’s opioid overdose death toll, AB 2384 (Arambula) and AB 2487 (McCarty), are on the State Senate floor and are moving toward the Governor’s desk. In 2016, over 2,000 Californians died of opioid overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control, California’s drug overdose rate rose in 2017. It likely is still rising. The death toll is worst for older Californians, as our state’s age group with the highest number of opioid overdose deaths is 55 and older.

an opioid pill bottle just waiting to kill grandma

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